Central African Republic: Church in Crisis as Two Catholic Bishops Quit
"In an open letter to the nation’s clergy, Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said that “many bad things have been done to the Body of Christ through poor and scandalous comportments.” He added:
It is pointless to deny what everybody knows. There is no need judging the motives and circumstances of the evil that has been committed. Members of the national clergy, diocesan and religious, you are, in one way or the other, accomplices in the current situation, but each of you shall assume his own culpability proportionally to his own responsibility."
I wonder how long everyone has known about this scandalous evil brewing in Central Africa? My guess is decades. Has to be decades when bishops are freely raising families along with their diocesan priests. Celibacy and chastity have never been widely received amongst the male clerical population in Africa, at least with any kind of consistency. Some people maintain it never can be as long as the African culture places such an emphasis on maintaining intact ancestral connections via the male line. Creating the next family generation is not just a cultural push, it's seen as a spiritual necessity.
I can remember back a couple of years ago when Archbishop Milingo of Zambia was a big story. John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter has done a number of articles on Milingo. The Vatican fear with Milingo was that he would start his own break away African church offering a married priesthood and a more traditional African spiritual approach, backed by the money of the Rev. Moon. That never materialized, although Milingo did join a similar break away group in the US and still maintains contact with Moon. He has now been excommunicated. Given the apparently widespread celibacy scandal in the Central African Republic we may be hearing from Archbishop Milingo yet again.
I think the Vatican has a major problem in Africa and South America. For a Church which sees these two continents as it's future, the Vatican seems incapable of assessing the fact that celibacy is not endemic to these cultures and is in fact, ignored as a necessary or intrinsic component of the priestly role.
Celibacy and chastity are the appropriate requirements for unmarried or widowed/divorced women, not manly men. That's why I found a comment attributed to Fr. Cutie quite telling. He is reported to have said that under his cassock was a pair of trousers.
The notion that sexual purity is a womanly thing impacts more than just priestly celibacy. It implies that men have a God given right to express their sexuality as intrinsic to their maleness and women don't. Women have a God given mandate to birth children as a result of male sexuality. This is why Cardinal Canizares, Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship can state that abortion is far worse than any abuse scandal, even the one literally destroying the Church in Ireland. The fact the Church practiced a form of abortion on born children by choosing to deprive them of any reasonable form of childhood, essentially treating them worse than these orders treated their farm animals, is totally over looked.
I wrote last week that there is no magic bullet or one doctrinal change to fix what's wrong with this Church. The attitudes which permeate the official structure are too entrenched and too out of balance. Vatican II started out with a pretty good notion of the entire Church being the People of God and that the real life experiences of real people needed to be taken into account. Those good thoughts slammed into to older visions of just what it meant to be human and the entrenched clerical power those notions supported. With the exception of liturgical changes Vatican II came to a screeching halt.
The ban on birth control and the refusal to relax celibacy rules has resulted in far fewer priests and far fewer pew sitters. Africa is not going to comply with these two provisions any better than the west, and as far as clerical celibacy goes, there is far less support for it with in the African culture. The story of Fr. Cutie may be front and center in the American discussion of celibacy, but the real problem for it's long term prospects is in Africa and South America. The prospects don't look very good.